Margaret looks like she’s in remarkable health. But she has one problem: She's in constant pain. She needs hip replacement surgery, but she's afraid of its consequences.
You see, she's read a lot of scientific studies that found that hip replacement surgery causes cognitive decline. And she'd rather be in pain than lose some of her ability to think and remember. But is surgery really a threat to your mental function?
What might surprise you is that many people who have surgery – not just hip replacement surgery – often experience memory loss.
But that's not all. Many people who have surgery and go to a convalescent home afterward suffer a loss of memory. Some never regain it.
Memory loss after surgery is very common. So is delirium. In fact, if you have any surgery, major or minor, you're likely to suffer some memory loss and/or delirium.
Why Many People Become Delirious After Surgery
A study in the July 2012 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine said that many people become delirious after cardiac surgery. We’re not talking about a handful of people. These researchers found that delirium occurs in up to 75% of heart patients! But mental confusion isn’t limited to heart patients. It occurs after many surgeries.
Delirium is not just a babbling or rambling on. It’s an acute change in mental function that appears quickly – like after surgery. When you’re delirious, it’s difficult to communicate and function normally. You lose your focus easily and it’s hard to think and reason rationally. You could experience changes in perception. And this occurs when you’re recuperating from major surgery.
For this most recent study, researchers assessed the cognitive function of a group of patients about to have cardiac surgery using the Mini-Mental State Examination (MSME). They tested the patients before surgery, each day they stayed in the hospital, and at 1, 6, and 12 months. Cognitive function dropped right after surgery, then it recovered in most people during the following year. The patients with delirium had a larger drop in cognitive function two days after surgery than those free of delirium. But the worst finding was that the patients with delirium recovered most slowly and never returned to baseline levels at the end of a year!
So we know there’s an association between surgery and delirium, but what is it? Why do so many people suffer from this loss of mental acuity after surgery? And how can you avoid going down this same path?
How to Protect Your Brain Function
It's normal for your brain to shrink a bit as you get older. And nearly every aspect of its functions change. But this doesn't have to be a problem. If you're healthy, you can still retain your ability to learn and remember. That's contrary to what doctors learn in medical school. But research shows that your brain creates new nerves, which are part of your memory circuit, even into your later years.
Physical and mental exercises improve brain function. That's why it’s important to make exercise a part of your daily routine. Crossword or Sudoku puzzles, and other games, are enjoyable ways to exercise your mind. But even with an active mind, exercise, and good nutrition, our age-related changes make us more vulnerable to memory loss after any surgery.
The medical name for this type of memory loss is POCD (postoperative cognitive dysfunction). It refers to a decline of mental function that can last for days, weeks, or months after surgery. It can also be permanent. That's just what worried my friend.
POCD is common after heart surgery, but now we're seeing it in patients who have other operations. So what is its cause? What common factor exists in both major and minor surgeries?
It's Not the Surgery Itself
Doctors agree that the surgery itself doesn’t cause the mental issues. But they say they don't know what causes POCD. However, there’s one obvious answer the doctors overlooked. There are several anesthetics (ketamine, benzodiazepines, propofol, atropine, and scopolamine) that can produce delirium. This is a form of POCD that can strike as much as 50% of older patients having heart surgery or hip replacement. Truth is, there are many types of drugs that can cause memory loss. And anesthesia drugs are just one class of drugs that can cause the problem.
Fortunately, there are ways to remove drug residues from your body after the surgery. These residues can stay in the body, especially the brain for the rest of your life. That's why it's vital to remove traces of anesthetics after any operation. But anesthesia drugs aren't the only culprit.
What About Pain Medications?
Almost every surgery requires the use of pain medications. These can also cause POCD. This occurs primarily when your doctor gives them to you intravenously.
In a French study, researchers were able to lessen cognitive decline considerably simply by giving patients oral pain pills or epidural injections instead of through an IV. So talk to your doctor before any surgery and insist on getting your pain meds through an epidural or from oral pain pills. This alone can greatly reduce your chance of losing your mental sharpness.
The older you are, the more likely it is that you'll get POCD. This is because everything slows down as we age – including detoxification. Anesthetics and analgesics (pain medications) clear out of the body more slowly the older we get. So, after any surgery, be as physically active as possible and drink plenty of water. Massage, either full-body or just your hands and feet, can increase detoxification, as well. But they're not enough. You also need a good safe detox program.
A Gentle, Effective Program
Most detoxification programs can't handle a difficult job like removing anesthesia and pain medications. Don't risk having memory problems for the rest of your life by using products that are not designed to remove pharmaceuticals. Most oral chelators aren't particularly effective. But this program can do it.
This is a two-stage program that increases circulation, enhances detoxification, and supports organ function. You take some of the supplements before surgery and some afterward. One formula eliminates the toxins in your digestive tract and bloodstream – the most recent toxins your body has absorbed. The second formula grabs the toxins that have made their way into your tissues. You need to use both stages before and after exposure to anesthetics.
Stage one is based on PectaSol-C, a product made from sodium alginate and modified citrus pectin that increases your body's normal detoxification system. It effectively binds to toxins in your blood and intestines, including residual anesthetics, before they can be absorbed in your tissues.
Stage two is based on ecoDetox, which includes several herbal formulas designed to gently remove toxins that are trapped in your tissues.
Also included in stage two is Padma Basic – an herbal formula we’ve discussed in the past. It's an excellent anti-inflammatory formula that supports the immune system – just what your body needs after surgery.
To get started, mark the following dates on your calendar: one month and one week before surgery, and four days and one week afterward. Then follow the instructions for each period of time (see below).
Pre- and Post-Surgery Detox Program
1 month before surgery:
• Multivitamin (one with 400 IU of vitamin E and 200 mg of selenium)
• Vitamin C (1 gram two times daily)
• PectaSol-C (3 before bed on empty stomach)
1 week before surgery:
STOP ALL SUPPLEMENTS
4 days after surgery:
• Resume multivitamin (take indefinitely)
• Increase vitamin C to 1 gram two times daily
• PectaSol-C (Take 3 in the morning and 3 in the evening on an empty stomach)
• PectaSol Detox Complete (Take 2 with meals two times daily)
• ecoDetox (Take 2 twice daily)
10 days after surgery:
• Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) one time daily – continue for one month
You can buy PectaSol-C and ecoDetox at www.econugenics.com. And you can buy Padma Basic and the multivitamin Healthy Resolve at www.advancedbionutritionals.com.
Eat plenty of protein after your surgery. Protein helps your tissues repair more quickly. Aim for 20 grams per meal – or one good serving three times a day. If necessary, make a protein drink for a mid-day snack.
If past surgeries have left you with some cognitive impairment, I suggest beginning with a three-month course of PectaSol-C (take 3, twice a day). Then add ecoDetox (take 2 with food twice a day) for two months.
This is the best way to protect your memory with any type of surgery. Please don't think of having any surgery – major or minor – without it.
Cohendy, R., et al. ''Anaesthesia in the older patient,'' Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care, January 8, 2005.
Crosby, G., MD and D.J. Culley, MD. ''Anesthesia, the aging brain, and the surgical patient,'' Canadian Journal of Anesthesia, 50:R12 (2003).
Saczynski J., et al. “Cognitive trajectories after postoperative delirium,” N Engl J Med, 2012.
Wang, Y., et al. ''The effects of postoperative pain and its management on postoperative cognitive dysfunction,'' Am J Geriatr Psychiatry, January 2007.